Defending champions Albirex Niigata will travel to Jurong West Stadium on Sunday to take on Tampines Rovers in their second meeting of this season and the White Swans coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga says his team needs to wary of the Stags, who according to him are defensively tight and good with counter-attacks.
In their earlier league meeting, which was also doubled as the Singapore Community Shield, the White Swans came from behind to edge out the Stags 2-1 in a tightly-fought encounter, which also saw a Tampines goal disallowed, much to the disappointment of coach Juergen Raab.
The Stags though have improved ever since and have stitched a four-match unbeaten streak to rise up to the second spot on the league table. They will be heading into Sunday's tie high on confidence as they ended Home United's unbeaten run in the tournament with a 3-2 win last Friday.
"I am not surprised they have quietly accumulated points and are now second in the table," Yoshinaga said, as quoted by The New Paper.
"My recent image of Tampines is that they are very tight defensively - if you look at their defensive record, they have conceded only six goals, only one fewer than us. Also, when they get the ball, they are very quick on the counter attack."
Albirex, the quadruple winners in 2016, have continued from where they left last season, sitting pretty at the top of the table with 22 points, four more than second-placed Tampines. Tsubasa Sano (8 goals), Ryota Nakai (4 goals) and Kento Nagasaki (3 goals) have combined well to make sure the team has remained unbeaten in the league so far.
Apart from scoring 21 goals, Albirex also have the best defensive record in the league, five goals conceded in eight matches.
Yoshinaga though adds that his team is not complacent and that they are looking to improve as a unit with every game. The 48-year-old tactician revealed that they will be coming up with new strategies on Sunday in order to continue with their winning momentum in the second round of the league.
"We do not think much of the (unbeaten) record. Of course, the results give us confidence, but we still have some weaknesses we have to work on," Yoshinaga added.
"We are not fixated on the results. We want to play better and, when we do that, the results will come naturally. We are trying out a few new things, and, hopefully, they will work out on Sunday. The start of the second round presents a good chance for us to press the reset button."